It was not long ago that many superintendents believed smooth and fast putting greens could only be achieved with the use of walk mowers. Many thought that triplex mowing was only for “low-budget” facilities. Negative perceptions surrounding triplex mowing of putting greens still persist today – but things are changing. The days of spending extra time and money walk mowing greens to provide narrow striping patterns are coming to an end for many facilities. That’s not to say that sending four or five people out with walking greens mowers can’t provide great putting surfaces, because it certainly can. However, recruiting and retaining quality employees continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the golf course maintenance industry and the COVID-19 pandemic certainly hasn’t helped. Thanks to improvements in equipment and some modifications to mowing procedures, courses are reaping the benefits of improved operational efficiency and enjoying a relatively quick return on investment (ROI) by implementing triplex mowing on putting greens.
Calculating the Bottom Line
In this era of data collection and interpretation, the importance of calculating the financial impact of management decisions has never been greater. For this reason, the USGA Green Section developed an ROI calculator to determine the payback period and future savings of switching to triplex mowing from walk mowing. The calculator can also determine the savings associated with triplex mowing compared to walk mowing if a facility is already using triplex mowers.
Information such as hourly labor costs, annual mowing frequency, fuel cost, purchase price for equipment, remaining useful life of the existing fleet and labor hours for walking and triplex mowing are entered into the calculator to determine the payback period for investing in new triplex mowers as well as long-term savings. To illustrate how the model works, let’s use the following situation as an example:
Triplex Golf Club has been using walk mowers to mow their greens for several years. We will assume the existing fleet of four walk mowers has three years of useful life remaining. Their new superintendent wants to use a triplex mower to mow the greens because it would reduce the amount of labor required to mow greens each day. He wants to purchase a new triplex mower for $50,000. To calculate the breakeven period for purchasing the mower we need to clarify a few key costs, which can be seen in the graphic below. In this model, we assume that one triplex mower would be used to mow daily and that four walk mowers are currently used. The assumed purchase price was $50,000 for a new triplex and $20,000 for each walk mower. Under these assumptions the breakeven period would be less than 2 years! Future savings are also calculated – under this scenario the total savings would grow to more than $100,000 in year three. This is when the new fleet of walk mowers would need to have been purchased based on the useful life of the existing machines. The model can also be extended over many years to illustrate the long-term impact that triplex mowing can have on the bottom line. If you’d like to leverage the Triplex Mowing Model, this is one of the many solutions made available to facilities through the Course Consulting Service.